Herd Health Program for farm animals

To keep a healthy herd of livestock or flock of poultry can be a daunting task for any serious farmer. This is because, like humans, animals have flesh and blood and are bound to get sick any time. What makes it even more challenging is that animals are usually reared in numbers for a farm to be able to make a profit. If you have a family of, say, three children and two adults, each of these five members of your household will probably need health care at least once a year. That is why we have medical insurance.

Imagine you need medical insurance for each of the animals on your farm. On a chicken farm with 10000 commercial layer birds, for instance, you would need to pay 10000 insurance premiums annually. Or on a dairy farm of 50 cattle, you would have to buy a policy for each of the 50 animals. Although livestock insurance has sorted the numbers issue by providing policies for the entire herd or flock, most farmers in Uganda still find it difficult to cover their animals against all insurable health risks.

A herd health program is more like an insurance policy document for your farm. It is a health management plan for your animals; individually and as a herd or flock. It is made by your Veterinarian in consultation with you (the farmer) or your farm manager. It includes the health challenges that your animals are likely to suffer through a period of one year. Your veterinarian advises on the common diseases within your area and how they may be prevented. Article Sponsored Find something for everyone in our collection of colourful, bright and stylish socks. Buy individually or in bundles to add color to your sock drawer!

The health risks by your Vet will be ranked accordingly from highest to lowest risk, each with its prevention or control strategy. For instance, some infectious diseases are endemic in some localities. In the cattle corridor of Western Uganda, you expect Lumpy skin disease (Ekifuruuto) of cattle in rainy seasons, Foot and Mouth disease (Ejwa) in dry seasons – although it can happen in any season – and Anthrax (Kooto)* in flooded areas during wet seasons. Contagious bovine pleura pneumonia (CBPP) has not been reported in this corridor but rather in Northern and North Eastern Uganda. Pest des Pettis Ruminatis (also known as goat plague or the plague of small ruminants) used not to be a problem until recent years in October 2020 when we had the first outbreak reported in many districts in the western Uganda cattle corridor districts. In the last two years, we have started to diagnose cases of tetanus in both cattle and goats which used not to be a problem before. Diseases like Bovine spongyform encephalopathy are unheard of in Uganda. Rift valley fever of cattle appeared on the scene in Uganda in 2012, after decades of quiet and currently a threat, having affected mainly people and suspected to be quietly affecting livestock. So a veterinarian working in your area will have the most up-to-date information regarding animal diseases in your area and can make a herd health program for you. It should then be reviewed and updated every year as new information and experience on the farm accumulates.

As every farm is different, a herd health program is customized to your farm depending on the situation of your farm. For instance, you may have cattle with ticks that have grown resistant to all available acaricides on the market, while ticks in the neighborhood farm are still controlled by the same acaricides. In the herd health program, your Vet should include strategies to control tick borne diseases which may include the use of one acaricide or may opt for an integrated approach without the use acaricides. The same Vet may recommend a different approach at the neighbor’s farm. So, you cannot copy from a neighbor’s farm a herd health program and apply it to your farm. Your Veterinarian should consider the uniqueness of your farm after studying it critically. The Vet also considers your targets and resources so as to make a customized program that you will be able to implement.

*All words in italics in brackets are local names of the mentioned diseases in Western Uganda

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